Cheddar Tasting

Cheddar is the world's most-produced cheese and America's favorite, which offers quite an insight when you think about the taste of most mass-market cheddars. These days, however, you're likely to face many more decisions at the grocery store than just orange or white. Do you want a 2, 3, or 4 year aged cheddar? Do you want Canadian, American, or English? Sharp or extra sharp? I really had no answer for any of these questions when trying to pick out a good cheddar for some old fashioned mac and cheese recently, so I got one of each of the most uncommon-looking cheddars to try. I have since learned from my excellent cheese reference books that cheddar has more protein per ounce (8g) than any popular cheese other than parmesan (10g) and more fat per ounce (9g) than other leading cheeses, though blue is a close second at 8.5g/oz. At least at 112 callories per ounce it comes nowhere close to the 647 calories per ounce in double-crème cheeses. All of the cheeses we tried were good, but Oren and I were at odds in our rankings. It seems that, after years of ignoring cheddar entirely, I'm not sure what it's really supposed to be. The more similar to my favorite like-textured cheeses (mmm, a gruyere-like cheddar?!), the better it fared in my voting. Oren, with so many cheddar-laden sandwiches under his belt, proved more of a traditionalist.I have added our rankings for the total points for each. Lowest score wins.Cabot Vermont Cheddar, 2 yearThis cheese has a distinct black wax rind and very light-colored interior. It was among the creamiest of the bunch, though still firm. It was also quite sharp, but had the best balance and most well-rounded flavors of the lot. Oren's first choice, my second for a total of 3 points.$8.99/lbWelsh Colliers CheddarThis cheese is creamy and mild, with a subtle crystalline texture more akin to a parmesan or gruyere. It had a nutty quality also akin to a young gruyere as much as a cheddar and, surprisingly, has a faint citrus note. This was my favorite, Oren's least, with a total of 5 points.$9.99/lbSuper Sharp Old Quebec Vintage Cheddar, Vintage January 2001Extremely sharp, single-note flavor with a slightly smoky aftertaste. Both of our third choices: 6 points.$11.99/lbWidmer's Cheese Cellars Four Year Old Cheddar CheeseThis was the only orange cheddar in our lineup and it truly tasted orange. I'm not sure how that worked, but this one would have stood out just as well in a blindfolded tasting. A simple fist tang gave way to a more complex, slightly fermented second taste. Oren's second choice, my fourth (looking at the prices after voting, I don't think this one was justified): 6 points.$10.99/lbA blend of these cheeses worked well in my ultimately comforting old-fashioned mac and cheese recipe. I can't say I like cheddar nearly as much in other dishes though. And, for eating straight, cheddar just wouldn't be my first pick.